More school districts across the country are beginning to consider enrollment in the online StopIt program, which offers students the ability to immediately and anonymously contact an authority figure or supervisor to make reporting incidents of bullying or harassment easier.
The Cleveland Board of Education recently voted 7-0 to set aside $3,600 to enroll the school system into the program for one year. If approved, board members would also like to see a six-month update on any successes resulting from the program.
Director of Schools Dr. Marton Ringstaff said the current system requires students to report any such incidents to the school resources officer. The StopIt digital app would replace the anonymous reporting box located in school offices. He added that the board felt the new program would be safer and quicker. While there were initially concerns that some students would misuse the app, they no longer believe that to be the case, writes Larry Bowers for The Cleveland Banner.
An annual subscription to the program costs 69 cents per student, which would add up to $1,900 for the close to 2,800 students in the district’s pilot middle and high schools. School officials would like to enroll all students in the 6th through 12th grades.
“It’s essentially an application that kids can load on to their phone and it gives them a beneficial, very rapid way to report incidents of bullying or whatever it may be,” said Chris Stipes, a TMRT safety representative. “It is two-way communication that is anonymous but the biggest deterrent is that everyone knows that there is an opportunity to report.”
The program runs through an app, allowing users to specify types of incidents from drugs to violence. Incidents of bullying can be reported online and the app includes the option of calling a toll-free crisis line. Students can download the app directly onto their smartphones and immediately and anonymously report if they see any bullying taking place.
Incidents can be tracked at the school or administrative level in order to ensure the claims are completed. Responses include monitoring, disciplinary action or calling the police, reports Paul Leach for The Times Free Press.
Tom Montgomery, vice president of TMRT program management, said that StopIt offers the ability to end incidents of bullying before it escalates.
“It gives the kids an opportunity to tell you things before they happen,” said Montgomery, citing highly publicized allegations of rape and assault on the Ooltewah High School boys basketball team.
Although other digital bullying reporting systems are out there, StopIt includes incident tracking for school administration. All they need to do is respond.
Before the vote took place, board member Murl Dirksen suggested that the program would increase the workload for administrators. However, Ringstaff maintains that the work would have been there in one form or another, but that the program offers protection for administrators.
StopIt is being considered in other areas as well, including Murphysboro, Illinois where a video of a fight between two students made it onto social media, and from there was identified as an instance of bullying.